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Poppie Arrives in America - 2008

Poppie Meets Stairs and his New Friend

Poppie in action in the US with Ficho his new friend snoozing abovePoppie arrived at home in Washington, DC and encountered his first problem—stairs.  Poppie had not had to negotiate more than a few steps before. Normally we kept the litter box for our other cat in the basement and of course, we had bedrooms upstairs.  In the beginning, we kept a litter box in the first floor powder room, obviously not a long-term solution in my eyes.  Our other cat, Ficho (originally from Macedonia), stayed where he was boarding for a few days extra so Poppie could adjust.

Finally, they met or rather Ficho came in the house and ran up the stairs.  Ficho normally was a social cat but he was nervous around Poppie.  In their relationship, Poppie surprisingly was the aggressor though they came to a negotiated peace rather like Armenia and Azerbaijan or Turkey and Greece.  We did not go through the proper cat introduction procedures I read about since we didn’t have the time or the space it required.

The next important step was taking Poppie to the veterinarian, so we could find out what his problem was.  The veterinarian at Friendship Animal Hospital immediately diagnosed Poppie with Cerebellar Hypoplasia. She said there wasn’t anything to do about it, he would live a normal life span and he was in good health otherwise. We were actually relieved Poppie wouldn’t require more treatment or surgery.  We mentioned that he hated being picked up and she said that might be because being picked up made him feel unbalanced or dizzy.

Unfortunately, not long after we got back from Afghanistan, we had to go out of the country again and leave the two cats with a cat sitter for several weeks.  The only problem was that Poppie did not get much exercise in the house and looked like a cushion with legs when we came back.  My husband decided that Poppie was used to playing in the garden in Kabul so he would enclose our small yard with a cat fence that would keep the cats from getting out.  He made it himself with materials from the home improvement store.  Our neighbors, though impressed with his hard work, asked him if he thought he was back in Kabul since the fencing was a bit reminiscent of a security compound.  The cats loved it, however.   We had to put in two cat doors, one into the screened porch and one from the porch to the outside.

Poppie refused to stay downstairs and of course, wanted to explore whatever was upstairs. My husband put aids on the stairs, including a gate and a carpeted pole to help Poppie up and down the stairs.  Soon, he didn’t need any help on the carpeted stairs.  My husband also carpeted the basement stairs and the stairs up to the third floor.  Poppie could then use the litter box in the basement.  We got a cement mixing tub, which is much bigger than the largest litter box so Poppie could kick and do his thing without making too much of a mess.

Poppie in the United States of America in 2009 - Relaxing Time Before his Journey to Jordan

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Poppie Encounters a New Danger in Washington

We were making dinner after a cold rainy day of hiking when we noticed that Poppie was not in the house.  My husband went out to the yard to look for him and came running in with Poppie.  He had caught his head under the gate and had tried so hard to free himself that he had lost a claw.  He was shivering badly and covered in dirt.  At first, we tried warming him in a hot towel but we decided we needed professional help.  The emergency vet was our own vet and only a few blocks away.

They took Poppie right away and heated him with a hair dryer (why didn’t we think of that?).  His eyes were jerking back and forth which was making the vet a bit nervous.  They gave him an IV and kept him overnight.  He tried to get up and meowed when I stopped to say good-bye, which was somewhat reassuring though heart wrenching.

We went through the ritual of “how much do you want to spend on your beloved pet?”  First, they asked if we wanted to treat Poppie.  Of course, we said.  Then they came back with an estimate of how much that was going to cost and how much of a deposit they would require. This is the second step in the decision-making process.  I had a figure in mind and they came in under it. I just reached for the credit card.

Poppie was released the next afternoon and he was quite limp.  My husband lined the living room floor with trash bags and put old towels on top of that but Poppie didn’t seem to need the vast toilet he created. He couldn’t stand up and we were very worried.  After the weekend we took him back to the vet  and she said that the gate had pressed on his spinal cord but that it should heal and more quickly than it would for humans.  She was right as he began almost immediately to get better.  The only residual effect to this day is that he sometimes holds his left paw awkwardly in the air.  We felt so guilty since we thought we brought him out of a dangerous place and he ended up almost having a catastrophe right in our back yard.   Yes, we fixed the gate so he couldn’t get his head under it.

Life was good for Poppie after that as he enjoyed the usual life of a cat: eating, sleeping, annoying Ficho, lying in the sun and playing in the snow after some big snowstorms.  Poppie also became more affectionate, often crying for attention like cheek rubbing and brushing.  He would jump (see videos for that action) on the couch to “his” area on a towel, all the better if someone was sitting close by.   Then the word came:  we were moving to Aqaba, Jordan a year and a half after we had returned from Afghanistan.   Poppie, the cat who hated to travel a few blocks, was moving across the globe again.


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